Thursday, 4 April 2013

Ceylon Arrack with The Liquorists - Manchester

As readers will be aware of late, I’ve been a little sluggish about posting on the blog – on one level it’s fine, as I don’t have an editor screaming in my ear and no one pays me to write moany/smug descriptions of the shit I endlessly put in my mouth; but this diminished creativity niggles at me everyday, pointing out my laziness/crapness/uncreative-ness.

I offer my apologies and can only say that when you suddenly find that most food you put in your mouth now makes you sick (a rather ironic affliction for an amateur glutton, you have to agree) coupled with finding out that people you value can actually be TOTAL cunts (cue sudden loss of innocence/naivety/trust/friends) – suddenly the urge to write is waylaid and it’s much more important to lock yourself in a dark room for eight hours a day getting lost in imaginary worlds on your playstation.

When you hate people you can pretend that all the baddies in the game you are playing are them

Having trimmed my life of both sick-making foods and people, having read my way through endless blogs and articles to inspire myself and having completed the new Tomb Raider COMPLETELY with all the extras and secret levels and EVERYTHING (and refusing to buy myself another game for a while), I’m finally going to post a blog post today. Wow, can hear the cheers of joy from here...

I have to apologise that this post is from an event that must have taken place about three or four weeks ago – however the self-validating paragraphs above are what I’m going to use for my sorry excuse and you’re not my Mum, so there.

The night in question was another Liquorists Spirit Trail – unusually for a trail we were neither treated to a night of varied brands a la the Tequila Trail or different expressions of the same spirit, such as the Belvedere night – this trail concentrated on a single spirit; but the usual Liquorist's template of 5 x bars/cocktails/shots/food pairings still stood (although many of us wouldn't be able to afterwards).

All the tables are reserved and the drinks are already waiting - that's what makes a trail so ace!

Let me introduce Ceylon Arrack, a little known spirit from Sri Lanka, which is made from the nectar of the coconut tree. Even me with all my gastronomic amazingness and exceptional palate etc (er yeah... - Ed), I had never heard of Ceylon Arrack before the trail, so let me reiterate all the facts that Jody Monteith expertly imparted to us and therefore make me sound like I know what I’m talking about.

Ceylon Arrack and its pretty bottle

Arrack is the oldest known spirit and was first documented in the 13th century, the term arrack denoting any spirit, not just this coconut flower delight. Think that’s poetic, you haven’t heard the whole bloody story yet…

Skip forward A LOT, to the roaring 20s and the building of the Ceylon Arrack distillery on Sri Lanka. Local men (I like to think of them as young, lithe and athletic) named 'toddy tappers' scaled the vast coconut trees in the plantation surrounding the distillery; once at the top they would remove the beautiful coconut flower, place a pot underneath where the flower had grown and then tapped along the branch to stimulate nectar production, down the chap shimmied and then returned the next day to replace the pot. And guess what, it’s still done like this today. In the same place. On the same trees.
Starting the night in true Liquorists fashion we all met up at 22 Redbank, their funky headquarters/office/events space; for food, facts and the first of the cocktails – an 'i have no idea what it's called because I forgot' (arrack, ginger beer, orange juice and bitters) (that's not it's real name, I actually have forgotten). The cocktail's fruity, light simplicity pairing deliciously well with the aromatic Sri Lankan curry that we were thoughtfully served to soak up our hangovers. We also tried the spirit neat and I was shocked, not much coconut came through (thank god, I HATE coconut); rather a greenish, vegetal, slightly sweet spirit and with the merest perfume on the nose.

Here is a bad picture of the cocktail with the name I forgot at 22 Redbank

From 22 Redbank our chariots (taxis) were summoned and we were whisked through the night to the Northern Quarter, where we spent the next few hours meandering through the (pre-booked) bars and tasting each establishment's interpretation of Ceylon Arrack. My favourite was the Saz-arrack in Hula, taking the traditional bourbon based Sazerac and giving it a make-over/cheesy pun name. Hula's Sazarrack stood out as they'd skipped the fuck loads of fruit that other bars went with and just poured in a load of alcohol and clove spirits – strong, perfumed, medicine tasting; how I like my booze. Other than just straight booze and ice. I’m a straight booze and ice kind of girl.

Along the way we tasted a coconut/fruity thing in Apotheca, which everyone LOVED, but apparently my face gave the game away about my obvious distaste (cue much laughter); the aforementioned delights at 22 Redbank and Hula; an IPA beer concoction at The Whiskey Jar (good if you like beer, lots of citrus) and a champagne punch at Eperney served in the most outlandishly lavish punch bowl and accompanied by a whole smorgasbord of meats and cheese, which they placed in front of me. Which I ate most of. I'm not going to apologise.


Considering the night was constructed around only one spirit, it was interesting to see it interpreted in such a myriad of different ways, underlining the true versatility of this spirit and the creativity of the Manchester bar scene – this, coupled with Jody’s dry Scottish wit and his tall tales (apparently his surname is from the French and is derived from his family's mercenary past. See Jody, was TOTALLY listening most of the time) made the night one of the best so far. Slainte!

The Liquorists,, Twitter,

Book you night HERE.

Please note I was given my place on the trail for free, but was in no way pressured/bribed/beaten up to give the night a good review. As you are aware I’m a particularly grumpy cunt and am in no fear of speaking my mind (as I did here), even if Jody is from Glasgow and is much harder than me – the night was fab and so are The Liquorists – raise your glass to the next one.

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